Top 30 NBA centers — 12. Jonas Valanciunas, Pelicans
Jonas Valanciunas was arguably the best player in Memphis last season. Now, he’s at the center of New Orleans’ rise to relevancy in the West. If Zion returns and everyone is healthy, the Pelicans could make real noise next season. Valanciunas is the perfect center for Zion too. He can pass out of DHOs and run the offense from the elbow. He can stretch the floor and bomb 3s. He can dominate the post when called upon. The Pelicans offense will have a ton of weaponry, but hopefully Valanciunas doesn’t get overlooked when discussing the team’s future success.
Top 30 NBA centers — 11. Clint Capela, Hawks
Clint Capela struggled for long stretches of last season. He could be aging out of stardom, which could make the Hawks’ long-term decision at center (with respect to Okongwu) that much easier. Even so, Capela also flashed the two-way dominance we’ve come to expect. He’s one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the NBA still, and he’s the perfect pressure release valve for Trae Young at the rim. He’s the poster child for rim-running, rim-protecting bigs. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Top 30 NBA centers — 10. Robert Williams III, Celtics
Time Lord made the jump into hyperspace (not my best work). The Celtics have put together the best defense in recent NBA history and Williams is right at the center of it, swallowing large swathes of space and racking up blocks. Were it not for injuries, he might’ve been in the running for DPOY (right alongside his teammate Marcus Smart). His versatility is unique and important to Boston’s switch-all scheme, while his play finishing at the rim is sneakily essential to the Celtics’ offense.